Snowy Orchid


Spikes of white flowers rise upward in wet landscapes amazing the eye.

The Snowy Orchid, Habenaria nivea, is a terrestrial orchid that thrives in wet Flatwoods, bogs, and wet prairies in several scattered counties throughout the State.  This perennial plant is supported by a single erect herbaceous stem that can reach a height of 3 feet.  Upward pointing narrow linear leaves 2 to 3 inches in length are spaced alternately along the stem.

At the upper portion of the plant is an inflorescence of tiny bright white flowers.  These flowers are attached to dark green flower stalks that are perpendicular to the stem. Each flower has a calyx of three sepals supporting a corolla of two petals and one modified petal called a labellum or lip which serves to attract pollinating insects. At the base of the labellum is a column that contains both male and female parts.  With orchids, usually the labellum points downward.  With this species, the labellum points upward. At the back of the flower is an ½ to ¾ inch appendage called a spur. The spur is a hollow coiling tube that contains nectar.

Snowy Orchid is a threatened species in Florida. The specimen in the picture was found in a small population in the Picayune Strand Preserve.

Dorothy Rodwell